What’s the Difference Between Food Allergies, Intolerances, and Sensitivities?

Foods to know the Difference Between Food Allergies, Intolerances &Sensitivities

01 Oct 2021

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What’s the Difference Between Food Allergies, Intolerances, and Sensitivities?

We’re all familiar with food allergies, but nowadays you constantly hear terms like “sensitivity” and “intolerance” to different foods. These three terms often get lumped together, but they’re unique conditions that elicit different responses from the body and have varying levels of seriousness. So, what do all these terms mean? And how should they affect your cooking?

Food allergies

Of the three, food allergies are the most serious. A food allergy is an immune response in your body, usually diagnosed by an allergist with a formal test. The cause of food allergies is still unknown, but the body perceives a harmless food as a threat and in response releases an immune hormone called histamines to “attack” that food it sees as harmful. The release of these histamines causes various symptoms such as hives, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. The onset of symptoms from an allergic reaction is usually immediate.

In cases of extreme allergic reactions, the victim can go into anaphylaxis, a rare allergic condition which can cause fainting and restricting airways. Anaphylaxis requires emergency medical attention and can be life-threatening.

People can be allergic to almost anything, but the most common severe food allergies are milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, wheat, and shellfish.

Allergic reactions from food can range from a slight itch in the ears to a fatal case of anaphylaxis, and just a trace amount of the allergen can be enough to cause a dangerous reaction. Even those who believe they have a “mild” allergy may have a severe reaction any time they consume that allergen, so it’s best to avoid it altogether. Cooking for someone with a food allergy must be done with great caution.

Food intolerances

While food intolerances are not as serious as allergies, they can cause significant illness and discomfort. An intolerance is not an immune response like an allergy, but instead is marked by the body’s inability to digest certain foods. Most food intolerances cause uncomfortable symptoms including stomach pain and diarrhea, but they are never life-threatening. Food intolerances are usually diagnosed by a doctor and symptoms often take several hours after eating to occur. Some common food intolerances are to lactose, a sugar found in cow’s milk, and wheat.

Unlike with allergies, those with food intolerances can usually have small amounts of the food they’re intolerant to. For example, those with a lactose intolerance may be able to have a little bit of grated parmesan cheese on a pizza or a touch of heavy cream cooked into a soup, but a spoonful of yogurt may make them sick. Similarly, someone with a mild intolerance to gluten may be able to have a dash of soy sauce over rice, but not a bowl of pasta.

There are, however, some more severe intolerances. Celiac disease is a rare intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, that can cause severe stomach pain, diarrhea, and violent vomiting. People with Celiac disease cannot have any traces of gluten.

Food sensitivities

Compared to food allergies and intolerances, food sensitivities have the mildest of reactions. Similar to an allergy, food sensitivity is an immune response so it can affect multiple organs with a wide range of symptoms including headaches, fatigue, rashes, and nausea.

The reaction from a food sensitivity can begin hours, or even days, after eating. Because of the delayed onset, food sensitivities can be hard to pinpoint and many of them go undiagnosed. Food sensitivity to gluten, for example, can be as simple as generally feeling tired a couple of days after eating bread. A good way to figure out if you have food sensitivity is to systematically eliminate certain foods from your diet for a week or two at a time to see if there’s a change in how you feel. You can also get tests for certain food sensitivities.

For many people with food insensitivities, a moderate amount of the ingredient will not lead to symptoms. However, as with allergies and intolerances, the level of sensitivity varies from person to person.

The bottom line

Food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities are all challenging conditions that should be taken seriously when cooking. When cooking for others with any of these conditions, be sure to talk to them beforehand and fully understand the nature and severity of their condition. If it’s just a mild sensitivity or intolerance, you may be able to use a little bit of the ingredient to make the tastiest dish possible. But, if your guest has a severe food allergy, you should steer clear of that ingredient.

At CookinGenie, all allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities are taken very seriously. CookinGenie chefs undergo a rigorous interview process, and they are adaptable to different dietary restrictions. The CookinGenie support staff will also work with you closely to ensure your meal meets your requirements so that you can sit back, relax, and enjoy a delicious homecooked meal.


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 In 1999, Harvard professor of biological anthropology Richard Wrangham published an article in the Current Anthropology journal called “The Raw and the Stolen: Cooking and the Ecology of Human Origins. Known as “the cooking hypothesis,” Wrangham’s groundbreaking new theory of human evolution proposed that taming fire to cook food changed the course of human evolution. 

 In his article and his 2009 book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, Wrangham argued that cooking allowed our human ancestors to process food more efficiently — and this change had a profound impact on evolution. While all other animals eat raw foods, Wrangham theorized that our ancestors began cooking their food some 1.8 million years ago, a change that gave early man the ability to process food more efficiently. It takes a long time, and a very large jaw and teeth, to grind down raw meat and plant matter. Before our ancestors learned how to cook, Wrangham estimated that half of their waking hours were spent simply chewing enough food to subsist, leaving little time for anything else. Cooking alters the chemical structure of food, breaking down the connective tissues in meat, and softening the cells of plants to release their starches and fats. This makes cooked food easier to chew and digest. This also helpthe body to use less energy to convert food into calories. Once the cooking was introduced, he estimated that our ancestors had an extra four hours in their day — time that could be spent huntingforaging, and slowly beginning to organizinto societiesWrangham explained, “The extra energy gave the first cooks biological advantages. They survived and reproduced better than before. Their genes spread. Their bodies responded by biologically adapting to cooked food, shaped by natural selection to take maximum advantage of the new diet. There were changes in anatomy, physiology, ecology, life history, psychology, and society.”  

This higher calorie, higher-quality diet lead to the evolution of bigger brains and bodies, and smaller jaws and teeth—a transformation that gradually resulted in modern man. From the control of fire and the growth in brain size, it’s not such a large leap to the development of dedicated hearths, the introduction of pottery and other tools for cooking, and the domestication of plants and animals.  

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 Wrangham’s theory is, of course, just that: a theory. Archaeological history to support control of fire 1.8 million years ago has not yet been found, but the recent discovery of ash in a South African cave suggests that our ancestors were controlling fire at least 1 million years ago — far earlier than previous evidence suggested. It may be just a matter of time before definitive evidence that proves Wrangham’s theory is found.  

 And If Wrangham’s theory is correct, we truly are what we eat.  

 If cooking is so fundamental to our evolution as people, it is a wonder that we don’t have time to make home-cooked meals with wholesome ingredients. Modern life has created many barriers to our ability to prepare home-cooked meals. What do we do if we don’t have time for home cookingBusinesses like CookinGenie can help you bring cooking where it belongs—in your own kitchen—even when you don’t have time to cook yourself. Check out our menus, and book your Genie today for building healthy eating habits in the family.  

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You should be able to find tahini at your local grocery store in the international section, although it may sometimes require a trip to a specialty market or health foods store.

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That’s where CookinGenie comes in. Whether it’s folded into a creamy homemade hummus, drizzled over crispy hand-rolled falafel, or topping a hearty chickpea shawarma salad, our genies offer an array of healthy, delicious, family-friendly dishes that will help you seamlessly blend tahini into your diet. Book one of our talented genies today to taste and experience this magical ingredient from the comfort of your own home.

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Foods to know the Difference Between Food Allergies, Intolerances &Sensitivities

01 Oct 2021

We’re all familiar with food allergies, but nowadays you constantly hear terms like “sensitivity” and “intolerance” to different foods. These three terms often get lumped together, but they’re unique conditions that elicit different responses from the body and have varying levels of seriousness. So, what do all these terms mean? And how should they affect your cooking?

Food allergies

Of the three, food allergies are the most serious. A food allergy is an immune response in your body, usually diagnosed by an allergist with a formal test. The cause of food allergies is still unknown, but the body perceives a harmless food as a threat and in response releases an immune hormone called histamines to “attack” that food it sees as harmful. The release of these histamines causes various symptoms such as hives, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. The onset of symptoms from an allergic reaction is usually immediate.

In cases of extreme allergic reactions, the victim can go into anaphylaxis, a rare allergic condition which can cause fainting and restricting airways. Anaphylaxis requires emergency medical attention and can be life-threatening.

People can be allergic to almost anything, but the most common severe food allergies are milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, wheat, and shellfish.

Allergic reactions from food can range from a slight itch in the ears to a fatal case of anaphylaxis, and just a trace amount of the allergen can be enough to cause a dangerous reaction. Even those who believe they have a “mild” allergy may have a severe reaction any time they consume that allergen, so it’s best to avoid it altogether. Cooking for someone with a food allergy must be done with great caution.

Food intolerances

While food intolerances are not as serious as allergies, they can cause significant illness and discomfort. An intolerance is not an immune response like an allergy, but instead is marked by the body’s inability to digest certain foods. Most food intolerances cause uncomfortable symptoms including stomach pain and diarrhea, but they are never life-threatening. Food intolerances are usually diagnosed by a doctor and symptoms often take several hours after eating to occur. Some common food intolerances are to lactose, a sugar found in cow’s milk, and wheat.

Unlike with allergies, those with food intolerances can usually have small amounts of the food they’re intolerant to. For example, those with a lactose intolerance may be able to have a little bit of grated parmesan cheese on a pizza or a touch of heavy cream cooked into a soup, but a spoonful of yogurt may make them sick. Similarly, someone with a mild intolerance to gluten may be able to have a dash of soy sauce over rice, but not a bowl of pasta.

There are, however, some more severe intolerances. Celiac disease is a rare intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, that can cause severe stomach pain, diarrhea, and violent vomiting. People with Celiac disease cannot have any traces of gluten.

Food sensitivities

Compared to food allergies and intolerances, food sensitivities have the mildest of reactions. Similar to an allergy, food sensitivity is an immune response so it can affect multiple organs with a wide range of symptoms including headaches, fatigue, rashes, and nausea.

The reaction from a food sensitivity can begin hours, or even days, after eating. Because of the delayed onset, food sensitivities can be hard to pinpoint and many of them go undiagnosed. Food sensitivity to gluten, for example, can be as simple as generally feeling tired a couple of days after eating bread. A good way to figure out if you have food sensitivity is to systematically eliminate certain foods from your diet for a week or two at a time to see if there’s a change in how you feel. You can also get tests for certain food sensitivities.

For many people with food insensitivities, a moderate amount of the ingredient will not lead to symptoms. However, as with allergies and intolerances, the level of sensitivity varies from person to person.

The bottom line

Food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities are all challenging conditions that should be taken seriously when cooking. When cooking for others with any of these conditions, be sure to talk to them beforehand and fully understand the nature and severity of their condition. If it’s just a mild sensitivity or intolerance, you may be able to use a little bit of the ingredient to make the tastiest dish possible. But, if your guest has a severe food allergy, you should steer clear of that ingredient.

At CookinGenie, all allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities are taken very seriously. CookinGenie chefs undergo a rigorous interview process, and they are adaptable to different dietary restrictions. The CookinGenie support staff will also work with you closely to ensure your meal meets your requirements so that you can sit back, relax, and enjoy a delicious homecooked meal.

Read More